Jolted by the poverty level within his immediate environment, Sen Oladipupo Odujinrin, recently saw the need to revisit his poverty alleviation foundation that would empower the Remoland community, especially traders. Femi Ogbonnikan who was at the inauguration writes

The idea was mooted 10 years ago when he turned 60 years old. He decided to give back to his society. But the dream was later dashed. Ten years after, Senator Olusoga Oladipupo Odujinrin decided to revisit the pet project when he clocked 70 years old on December 19, 2017.

For Odujinrin, the need to give back to the same society that churned him out, was a fire that would not burn out no matter the number of years that elapsed. By sheer providence, Odujinrin, a lawyer by professional calling, at age 35, found himself at the Upper Chamber of the National Assembly in 1983 when he was elected on the platform of the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) and represented Remo/Ijebu-Ode, Ogun State, on the basis of the defunct five districts per state arrangement, in Lagos, the then Federal capital, a seat he occupied for three months before the military junta of Buhari/Idiagbon ousted the then civilian dispensation of President Shehu Shagari-NPN led government in a palace coup on December 31, 1983.

Thus, still burning with the passion to impact lives, he finally kicked off the foundation. On the set day, he threw open the doors of his Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) named Senator Dipo Odujinrin Foundation (SENDOF), where he inaugurated societies under it and presented cheques and certificates to beneficiaries of the foundation’s empowerment programme.

Held at his Ode-Remo country home, in Remo North Local Government Area of Ogun State, the programme saw 20 beneficiaries going home with a sum of N50,000 each, with an interest at a very affordable and friendly rate, spanning a year.

According to Odujinrin, the motive behind the scheme was borne out of the need to banish poverty in the old Remo Division of the defunct Ijebu Province. He said, “It was my pet dream about 20 years ago when I decided I would float a foundation when I turned 60 in 2007. The essence was to give back to my immediate society where I had been lucky and privileged to be where I am today. Preparatory to that, being a lawyer, I decided to give it a legal teeth and I registered it with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC).

“In a bid to give the foundation more prominence, I approached my bosom friend, Dr. Gbolade Oshinowo, who was then, a Special Assistant (SA) to ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo on Political Affairs, that I wanted his boss to have input into the scheme.

“A meeting was scheduled to meet Obasanjo in Abuja. We discussed exhaustively about the proposed foundation and Obasanjo promised to assist but on a clause. Originally, my intention was to have the foundation launched on December 19, 2007, the very day I would turn 60 at the MUSON Centre, Onikan, Lagos, but Obasanjo told me that his party, PDP, was still searching for his successor and zone the presidency to the South-south. He said that if God ensures that his preferred candidate, Peter Odili, ex-governor of Rivers State, was chosen by the leadership of the party on December, 16, 2007, that he would grace the occasion personally.

“But with the turn of event, Obasanjo later told me that the leadership of the PDP had zoned the presidency to the North, that it was his SA, Oshinowo, that called him to notify him of the sudden change in the arrangement of the number one office to the North.

“And once the party had zoned the presidency to the North, on December 16, 2007, we all went with the delegates to Abuja to vote for Alhaji Umaru Musa Yar’Adua and he emerged as the flagbearer of the party. The following day which was on Sunday, December 17, 2007, Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan (later President) wanted to quickly return to Bayelsa because he was jostling for the governorship ticket of the state was called back to become the running mate of Yar’Adua.

“Again, we went to the Abuja residence of Peter Odili and preached to him to take the development with a spirit of sportsmanship, that it was God’s doing, not to have him as the presidential candidate of the party.

“With the December 19, 2007 that had been scheduled for the inauguration of my foundation, we approached Obasanjo, if to shelve the event or not from taking place and he asked us to go ahead. We went ahead. The amount realised at the occasion and others that were sourced elsewhere were taken to the stock market to enable them yield some interest over time.

“We didn’t look back and we forged ahead.
There is a need to get enough funds for our people to be uplifted. Nigeria is a country with great wealth but with lots of poor people. Recently, the President, African Development Bank (ADB) Dr. Akinwunmi Adesina, who happens to be one of us here in Ijebuland once said, that 80 per cent of Nigerians are living below two dollars per day. So, if we all have and we are blessed I think we should help each other.”

On the political front, Odujinrin reminiscenced on the formation of Ijebu Agenda, stating that he alongside Oshinowo gave birth to it. According to him, the advent of the birth of Ijebu Agenda on July 21, 2017 was fast becoming a reality, adding that all illustrious sons and daughters of Ijebuland have keyed into it.

He said while he was still searching for how to go about the foundation he came across Otunba Bimbo Ashiru, the incumbent Ogun State Commissioner for Commerce and Industry. Ashiru he said had come to shed more light on the Eriwe Farm Village in Ijebu Ode, an initiative of Ijebu Development Initiative on Poverty Reduction (IDIPR), which was a model borrowed from United States of America. Noting that he has an input there when he met with the leadership of the Ijebu Agenda over his governorship bid he said,
“I told Ashiru that the model is what I have been searching for, since 2007 for my foundation. So, what we are doing today is a foundation towards the Ijebu Agenda of the 2019 governorship agitation.

“The IDIPR’s secretariat is located within the Palace of the Awujale of Ijebuland.
So, the quest to get acquainted with the operations of the IDIPR, I was given an appointment on August 1, 2017 to come to the Awujale Palace. We spent three hours, beginning with lectures and we were taught in steps to succeed with the foundation.

“This is not free money because you must refund it. You are to invest it wisely for the purpose for which it is meant for. You are ambassadors of SENDOF. You are the first set of the beneficiaries of the scheme and you should lay exemplary leadership for others coming behind you.”

Also, the chairperson of SENDOF, Dr. (Mrs) Olusola Odujinrin, wife of the founder, said since the foundation was registered on December 11, 2006 and was formally launched at the MUSON Centre, Onikan, Lagos, to mark the 60th birthday of the founder. However, she added that the foundation had not been able to do much due to inadequate funding, lack of a formal guiding structure and a suitable system, hence many of the supported ventured albeit on adhoc basis treated the funds advanced as grants which rendered the efforts unsustainable.

She said, “In order to make the empowerment programmes of SENDOF more sustainable, the foundation was fortunate to adopt the IDIPR model which has been successfully implemented over the past 18 years to the benefit of the Ijebu people of Ogun State. Let me seize this opportunity to thank the Board of Trustees Management and Staff of the IDIPR for their great support in our current endeavour.

“The four Cooperative Multipurpose Societies of SENDOF Itesiwaju Women/Men in Business Cooperative Multipurpose Society, Ajenikoko Food Stuffs and Others Cooperative Multipurpose Society, Kajola Fish Farmers Cooperative Multipurpose Society and Alaseyori Pig and Vegetable Farmers Cooperative Multipurpose Society being formally inaugurated were first after an intensive two days training programme conducted on our behalf by IDIPR between January 17 and 18, 2018 and which included a guided tour of the celebrated Eriwe Farm Village on the outskirt of Ijebu Ode.”

She, however, appealed to the government at all levels, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and people of goodwill for both their moral and financial support in their bid to banish poverty among the people. She also solicited for contributions and support in both cash and kind, in order to make a meaningful difference to the economic status of the people of the area.

Chief Olu Okuboyejo, the only surviving retired Permanent Secretary in the old Western region, who was the Special Guest of Honour at the occasion, saluted the courage of the founder, Odujinrin, for his contribution towards the Ijebu Agenda.
Casting his mind back to the formation of IDIPR, the octogenarian said, “The Awujale and Paramount ruler of Ijebuland, Oba Sikiru Kayode Adetona, called his people in Ijebu Ode, including market women and men to his palace for a crucial meeting.

“Prof Akin Mabogunje had, in his study, come to conclusion that poverty had reached 80 per cent high in Ijebu Ode. I just returned to Ijebu Ode, then after my retirement from active service. And this trend was very disturbing and the Awujale had to call us that day, to begin to donate without wasting time. That very day, we realised N10 million.
After the meeting, the Awujale had to call five of us, including both late Prof Adebayo Adedeji and Adedotun Kayode Degun and tasked us on how to banish poverty in Ijebu Ode with the amount realised at the meeting.

“The monarch asked us what we could do with the N10 million and we suggested for the registration of an organisation. It was named Ijebu Ode Development Board. So, the fund was divided into two disbursement categories, Micro-finance and Market women and men. And we have four notable markets in Ijebu Ode.

“I am happy today that what we did in almost 20 years ago is what we are replicating here in Ode-Remo. When we began the Ijebu Ode Development Board, we have to operate on Cooperative Societies basis. We gave beneficiaries of the scheme two percent interest rate on the funds collected. Also, three months was the repayment period. Thank God, the repayment was successful and as well, the interest on the monies collected also paid. Even no bank in Nigeria can ever boast of 90 percent recovery of loans. We never lost at the end of the day.

“Soon afterwards, we approached African Development Bank (ADB) through ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo, when he was in saddle of the leadership of this country. Dr Gbolade Oshinowo facilitated the meeting and we told Obasanjo point-blank that we had not come to beg for money but for his assistance in a bid to reduce poverty in Ijebu Ode with a credit facility from ADB. He obliged us and we approached the ADB. We were offered N20 million. Cooperative Societies in Yorubaland are firmly rooted. So, we can use the SENDOF for the poverty alleviation on Remoland.”

He also expressed appreciation to Senator Ibikunle Amosun, Ogun State Governor, for coming to the aid of the IDIPR on three occasions with a sum of N25 million each, excluding another N60 million granted by the state government but facilitated through the intervention of Otunba Bimbo Ashiru, Ogun State Commissioner for Commerce and Industry, for the same primary task of poverty reduction.

Meanwhile, in his own goodwill message, Ashiru, who is the Ogun East APC consensus governorship candidate, admonished the beneficiaries of the loan scheme to use the money judiciously for their trades. The 54-year-old Ijebu Ode son noted that population grows everyday and enjoined the beneficiaries to use the money collected to grow their trades, the returns of which they can use to send their children and wards to schools and become useful in the society.

He however, bemoaned the recent report which ranked Ogun, as the state with highest number of youths that are involved in various forms of frauds in the country. “The money you are receiving today is an integrity if you refund the money. In Ogun State, we have 119 Cooperative Societies and they have created jobs for well over 200,000 people.

“So, you are the driver of the economy and you are going to be reference points. The money is not a national cake and you must pay back. I am promising, if God tarries and I became the next governor of this state poverty will be brought to its barest minimum.

“I want to urge you to continue to pray for the Odujinrin family for this magnanimity. They are not and do not want to contest for any elective office but out of their own volition they have decided to give back to the society through this foundation,’ he said.

Dignitaries in attendance include the Alaye of Ode, Oba Adetunji Amida-Osho, Prince Segun Aderibigbe, Prince Segun Soyomi, Chief Marcus Adeniyi, Engr Bolaji Ogundeyin, Lisa Kola Olubodun, Engr Dapo Osinuga, Alhaji Rasheed Adenusi, Otunba Lawal Solarin and Segun Idowu.